Recommended Reading: Four poems by Darin Ciccotelli are up at BOMB.
Catching you up to speed with two recent literary controversies: 1) Poets & Writers' MFA rankings kerfuffle gets a climactic and eloquent summary from The Missouri Review's Michael Nye. 2) In response to her Salon article, "How the National Book Awards made themselves irrelevant," Victor LaValle has some fightin' words for Laura Miller.
In his column in the Chicago Tribune today, Eric Zorn describes a particularly ugly incident that occurred at a library not far from where I live. Somebody set fire to a number of books at the John Merlo branch of the Chicago Public Library. Making matters worse, it appears as though the arsonist targeted the gay and lesbian books section of the library, which itself is located in a neighborhood with a large gay population. From Zorn's column: Staffers detected the fire quickly and used an extinguisher to put it out before anyone was hurt. The library remained open, and if you visit there today, the only reminders of the incident are gaps on several shelves where destroyed books used to sit.But the location makes it a bigger event. For both symbolic and safety reasons, the idea of arson in the stacks, no matter how relatively unsuccessful, is chilling. Public libraries are not only embodiments of liberty but, with all that paper, prospective tinderboxes.More chilling still to many is that the unknown arsonist chose to set the fire in the heart of the Chicago area's largest unified collection of gay and lesbian-oriented books.Zorn explores the topic further at his blog explaining why he decided to devote his column to what was, admittedly, a very minor fire, wondering "Do we not, in some ways, magnify the power of a hate crime when we publicize it?"I'm glad he decided to write the column. Coming on the heels of a book-banning attempt in a nearby school district, it's been a rough couple of months for books in the Chicago area.Update: It turns out it wasn't a hate crime. As Eric Zorn explains, they caught the culprit, a 21-year-old homeless woman who set the fire because "she was angry at library staff for being rude to her."
New this week: All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld; In the Course of Human Events by Mike Harvkey; Casebook by Mona Simpson; The Other Story by Tatiana de Rosnay; Vernon Downs by Jaime Clarke; and Labor Day: True Birth Stories by Today’s Best Women Writers, edited by Eleanor Henderson and Anna Solomon. For more on these titles and other new releases, check out our Great 2014 Book Preview.